It is easy to see only through your own eyes when considering the best course of action for you and your horse. Many riders are scared by the thought of “night rides”, which are trail rides taken after sunset, because they fear the possibility of their horse tripping while out and about in wooded areas. In reality, however, most riders can be comfortable trusting their horse’s night vision. Horses with normal sight can see just as well in darkness as you can in full sunlight.
Of course, it is difficult for riders to embark on night rides, trusting their horses to carry them safely through the darkness. This type of exercise requires an extraordinary amount of trust between horse and rider, because not only must you trust your horse to carry you safely, but you must also give him enough rein to make intelligent decisions.
Give it Time
Although your horse’s night vision is much better than your own, you must consider the fact that their eyes have to adjust to darkness. It typically takes fifteen minutes for a normal horse’s eyesight to recover from brightly lighted areas, which is something you need to remember when emerging from your lighted barn to go on a night ride. You might walk around in an open field for fifteen or twenty minutes before hitting the trail.
Mark Your Path
You can trust your horse’s night vision, but to be on the safe side, scout your trail before you take a night ride. Be on particular look-out for branches in the path, holes in the soil and branches overhead. While your horse’s night vision is better than yours, he isn’t going to be thinking about a five-foot-high branch and how it might smack you in the face while you ride.
Bring a Cell Phone
It is easy for riders on night rides to become over-confident when they learn that their horse has excellent night vision, but it is never a good idea to get too cocky. Accidents can happen on the trail at any time of day or night, so bring a cellular phone in case you require assistance from someone back at the barn.
Bring a Buddy
The buddy system is always a good thing to practice during night rides. This is especially true if you’ve never done it before and are wary about trusting your horse’s night vision. Have the more experienced rider lead the group and stay at a walk until everyone is perfectly comfortable.
Stick with the Familiar
It is always a good idea to stick with familiar paths, trails and fields during night rides. Your horse’s night vision can negotiate just about any trail, but you won’t do anyone any favors if you’re nervous. You might also want to stick to lightly-wooded areas and open fields for the first few excursions until you are comfortable.
Trust Your Horse’s Night Vision
And finally, remember that you have to have an inordinate amount of trust invested in your horse for night rides to be successful. If you choke up on the reins and insist on directing his every footfall, you are relying not on your horse’s night vision, but on your own. If you have owned your horse for many years and developed a good relationship, he will defer to your judgment, so try not to lead him astray.